Proverbs 14:14: Backsliding in heart
One of the greatest spiritual battles facing the Western Christian is the fight to stop being a backslider in heart. In other parts of the world like Northern Iraq where ISIS is beheading children, the great struggle is for faithfulness and patience in the face of aggressive persecution. In the West we have the opposite problem; we struggle against ease, pleasure, comfort, excess and the other conveniences of modern life. And so we must conclude that one of our greatest dangers is the innocuous unseen danger, not of cancer, but backsliding. As Christmas approaches and we are inundated with the opportunity to indulge I feel it important to raise a cry of alarm. The bible gives us warnings about the corrupting effect of good times and easy times.
When Israel was confronted by Moses in Deuteronomy 32, he speaks about God’s blessings causing fatness and forgetfulness, 13-16, ‘He made him ride on the high places of the land, and he ate the produce of the field, and he suckled him with honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock. Curds from the herd, and milk from the flock, with fat of lambs, rams of Bashan and goats, with the very finest of the wheat—and you drank foaming wine made from the blood of the grape. “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger.’ Hosea 13:6 says the same thing, ‘but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me.’ Soft pleasures harden the heart.
Like sharks underneath the surface of the ocean unseen by the swimmer, or landmines unseen to the walker, backsliding is a sin that happens below the surface and goes undetected. Like a blood sucking bat that licks a horse’s hide repeatedly until the area goes numb before biting it, backsliding is often a painless unfelt reality. This causes great damage not only to ourselves but more importantly to God’s glory and the cause of Christ. Saltless churches and Christians are worthless, lukewarm churches and Christians are offensive to God. As we evaluate ourselves for backsliding today we want to look at Proverbs 14:14 as our text, ‘The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.’ This is a very important verse which helps us analyse the nature of backsliding, I encourage you to commit it to memory. Today we want to see that backsliding begins and flows from the heart; what some of the consequences are and how to prevent it from happening.
First though let’s deal with definitions. When I say the word backslider what do you think of? Is the backslider someone who is a Christian or not? Some think that a backslider is someone who once was a Christian but is no longer. Others see backsliders as disobedient Christians. I fall into the second category and will be using the word to describe Christians who are not loving God with all they are worth, not keeping short accounts with God over their sins, who are dulled on account of sin and may be unaware of their poor spiritual condition. Like the middle aged man who goes to the doctor to discover he has a heart condition which explains the tiredness, the shortness of breath and chest pains I am hoping today will cause many to awaken to their spiritual comatose condition and reconsecrate themselves and apply themselves to the grace God provides with which we are to grow by.
So to begin with we are differentiating between an apostate and a backslider. An apostate is someone who confesses to be a Christian, who looks outwardly to be saved, but then on account of some sin they drift from the faith never to return. This is what Christ is describing in the parable of the sower with the seed that falls in stony ground which springs up quickly but departs on account of persecution; and the seed amongst the thorns that gets choked out. Jesus explains that it was only the last that bore fruit that had a good heart, a born again heart that persevered. There are many accounts of those who followed and then stopped altogether. We are not talking about those who were never born again which is proven by their lack of perseverance, no we are talking about those who have experienced a true work of grace, who are born again but who have to fight against the flesh. Those who forget how sin can take us silently and without pain and how constant vigilance is to be our daily disposition. Apostasy and backsliding can be into the same sin but like wood or cork falling into water, the backslider will float not sink. Apostates end up having no conscience towards sin and accuse God, but those who are born again and backsliding will have no peace and accuse and hate themselves. Peter and Judas both denied the Lord, but Peter was truly saved, Judas never was.